WINNER “BEST ANTI-FRAUD INNOVATION”
GLOBAL AWARDS 2019

Insights from Vox Carrier

VOX Insights | Networks Audit Report for Ghana

Network Audit Ghana

Mobilesquared most recent SMS A2P databook indicates 35% SMS A2P gray routes in Ghana, A VOX360 network audit of Ghana in 2020 also revealed that there were several clear areas of vulnerability which MNOs should look to improve. These network vulnerabilities negatively impact customer service and also act as significant barriers to MNOs being able to increase their revenue.

SMS Delivery based on pricing alone

One classic red flag is pricing. When the pricing of any good or service is so low it appears too good to be true, then this is a surefire clue that something worrying may be going on; this holds true for any industry, Business Messaging included. 

Marius Rosca, VP of Partner Success at VOX Carrier puts it well, “If we are able to sell something that you are selling three times cheaper, there might be a problem somewhere.”

Very low prices can be an indication of loss-making products and badly negotiated deals. It can also be an indicator of something more dangerous, like fraudulent activity. With Ghana, we found that the bottom 35% of their SMS traffic was sold at more than 10 times lower than traffic at the top end.

 “The bottom 35% of Ghana’s SMS traffic was sold at a price more than 10 times lower than traffic at the top end”

This is a cause for concern. Sometimes businesses make strategic decisions to sell at low prices. They can even use some products as loss leaders. However, when the volume of low pricing is as much as 35%, this could be a red flag that illegal connections are being used on the network.

International and National A2P Traffic Sources

When looking into the strength of a network, high traffic from other networks can be a vulnerable area for the bypassing of firewalls. Malicious traffic could come from international origins and bypass network safeguards, compromising an MNO’s ability to have sight and control of their traffic.

For Ghana, we identified a very low amount of A2P SMS traffic coming from international networks, which reflects that the potential for bypass is presently under control.

Manipulated Content In Messages and Smishing

It’s often the case that a customer receives an SMS and the text in the body does not appear right.

For Ghana, we found that 24% of SMS traffic showed evidence of manipulated content, meaning there is a very high chance of fraudulent activity. A2P text messages carry important information such as consumer details related to bookings, financial transactions, or other sensitive information. This rise on top of revenue leakage also big subscriber’s privacy problem.

“24% of SMS traffic showed evidence of manipulated content”

Marius Rosca, SVP Operations at Vox Carrier, comments on the need for contracts and how manipulated content can come about, “With known messages, you have the certainty that it goes through agreed contracts. When there is a bypasser, there is no contract so suddenly your message goes through someone you don’t know. You have no idea who it is. The bank has no idea who it is. The operator has no idea who it is”.

SIM-box Threat Detection

Sim farms are rife in many markets. In a few countries, this activity is considered illegal, but in most territories, it is simply an annoying problem that ends up at the customer’s doorstep in the form of dropped messages and overall bad service. Same as content manipulators SIMboxes rise on top of revenue leakage also big subscriber’s privacy problem. 

“Signs of Sim-box activity in Ghana was 28%”

We found that signs of Sim box activity in Ghana stood at 28% of traffic. By comparison, another African country, South Africa, had Sim box activity of 28%. Marius Rosca talks about some of the reasons it can be hard to get to the bottom of this problem, “There is no quick fix. The SIM-box bypass appears because of products like unlimited SMS bundles that attract customers. Such bundles are not easy to stop once they are in the market”. Sim-boxes are also prevalent where there is a significant difference between voice termination rates for international versus national traffic.  In many African countries the difference can be $0.15 per minute or more.  With this much arbitrage potential the MNOs are simply too great a target for the fraudsters to ignore. 

SMS A2P Bypass

In the case of Ghana, about 70% of their A2P SMS traffic terminated via hubs from other national MNO operators. This showed the possibility of bypass from international sources. As with other warning signals, this high percentage would require an investigation.

How can you improve network control?

MNOs should know that each of these network weaknesses can badly affect the customer experience they offer. Bad customer experience leads to customers voting with their feet and jumping on to other competitor MNOs. Here is what happens if you don’t focus on network control:

  • You will lose money. If MNOs don’t optimize their A2P SMS traffic and monetize it well, they will be leaving money on the table.
  • You will fall behind in the market. It’s a hyper-competitive space, and as long as you don’t have control of your revenue streams, you will fall behind compared to your rivals.
  • You will lose the trust of your customers. If you don’t protect the data privacy of your consumers and they fall victim to scams, or even just too much spam, they could move to your competitor.
  • Your compliance levels will suffer. Compliance is an essential part of modern business, and for good reason. It ensures that your business is run in accordance with the rules and regulations of your operating environment. If your network is compromised, compliance levels naturally go down.
  • You could lose control of your operations. The idea that a criminal third party could leverage off established networks for their own gain should be a major concern for business leaders. Is it an easy fix? Whose job is it to fix network weaknesses? 

Marius Rosca saysA2P traffic safety should be the priority of the A2P originators such as banks and other service providers. But they might be interested in low cost more than safety. So, in a big way it should be the priority of MNOs for protecting their subscribers”.

Conclusion

We found many weak spots in Ghana’s network infrastructure. It’s easy for criminals to take advantage of an unsecured network. Other vulnerable areas lead to unnecessary revenue loss. MNOs and all other players in the value chain need to take an active role in stopping these damaging practices. Once these problems are under control, MNOs can enjoy the enhanced customer loyalty and extra revenue that comes with it.

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WINNER “BEST ANTI-FRAUD INNOVATION”
GLOBAL AWARDS 2019